It’s dawn. You sit on a rock on the bank of a river, the cool morning chill contrasting vaguely with the hot orange sunrise. The mist coils and rises from the river, disappearing into the pale sky above. You sit quietly as you officially ring in your 24 th straight hour awake, a nd there is one question you have to answer: how will you sleep today?
That’s what I had to ask myself when I decided to take a week and try out a new sleep pattern. I had read about a particular sleep pattern which supposedly could make you more productive.
The basic idea is that you sleep for about half an hour every three hours, and in about 10 days your body will adjust so that virtually all 30 minutes are spent in R.E.M. sleep, where your brain gets most of its rest , thereby allowing you to sleep only half the amount of a normal person.
It’s easier to get into a new pattern if you get out of the one you’re in first, so my friend Tyler Langsdale, 20, and I took some tents and supplies out to the woods on a sunny April Sunday and stayed up all night. Monday morning we sat on a rock awaiting our scheduled 7:00 am nap, alarms at the ready.
The first three days are grueling. Not sleeping the way you want to sucks, and tempting yourself with short naps is tortuous at best. Camping actually helps because you’re occupied all the time so you don’t think too much about it.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth days aren’t bad. You have that weird, dreamy feeling you get from staying up too long, but you don’t want to sleep. Tyler hyperbolizes, “I don’t feel tired. I feel like I would be tired if I honestly believed I was awake.” Productivity does go up somewhat, but you get tired easily.
The seventh and eighth days (which were the last two I could do) bring on some confidence that this new schedule can actually be adjusted to, though if you’re not careful you could easily slip back into a normal pattern.
Unfortunately we had to cut it short there. I was never fully adjusted, but I think I would have gotten there with a little more time. It’s rather difficult to keep yourself going at first, but once you get some momentum you roll. If you can pull it off, congratulations, you’ve achieved maximum efficiency. And a really inconvenient sleep schedule.
It’s fun to try it, though.